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Russia sees UK as weak because of Brexit, says Lithuanian minister L

Russia sees UK as weak because of Brexit, says Lithuanian minister

Linas Linkevičius says Russia’s reaction to Sergei Skripal attack is test of UK’s resolve
Vladimir Putin is testing the UK at what the Russian president regards as a time of weakness owing to Brexit, Lithuania’s foreign minister has told the Guardian.
Speaking after a meeting with the British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, on Thursday, Linas Linkevičius said Russia saw the UK as increasingly isolated as it prepared to leave the EU. Russia was testing the UK’s strength, resolve and diplomatic links after the Salisbury nerve agent attack, he added.
“Russia is always looking for weak points, and may feel the UK does not feel very strong,” he said in an interview. “The Russian assumption may be that in the process of Brexit, the UK is weaker in terms of its isolation, and due to Brexit the EU will not be very enthusiastic in backing the UK up.
“Fortunately that is not the case, and we will support the UK, but Russia acts by testing for reactions.”
Linkevičius said the introduction of a British version of the US’s Magnitsky Act – one of the sanctions announced by Theresa May on Wednesday – would be very painful for the Russian elite, adding that the measure had already been introduced in Lithuania.
“You know how many oligarchs find safe haven in London – their money, the real estate, the children sent to secondary schools – and they cannot imagine their life without that,” he said. “Can you imagine if people were put on a UK list who already have real estates and property here? Of course it will be painful.” 
Linkevičius said Putin’s actions represented a threat to liberal democracy. “They test and deny. I am not asking for escalation, but if no clear messages are sent, Russia regards it as an encouragement to do more.”
Lithuania, long on the frontline of perceived Russian aggression, is one of the UK’s closest allies in combating Moscow. Linkevičius said he expected EU foreign ministers to offer a full-throated defence of the UK at a meeting on Monday, at which Johnson will seek the bloc’s support.
In a joint statement issued on Thursday, France, Germany, the US and the UK said no country but Russia could plausibly be responsible for the attack on the former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, Wiltshire.
The countries said the nerve agent attack represented an assault on UK sovereignty, and demanded Russia provide full disclosure of its novichok nerve gas programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Britain has alleged that novichok was used in the attack on Skripal; Russia denies being behind the poisoning, which also left a British police officer, Nick Bailey, seriously ill in hospital.


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